If you’ve ever finished a course or class that was really hard to follow, didn’t seem to deliver, was either too easy or too hard — it’s possible that poor instructional design (ID) is to blame. The opposite is of course, also true.

Basically, ID is a set of rules or a process for making training/classes do what they’re supposed to do. With it, we:

  • Determine our goals with the instruction. (You do have them, don’t you?)
  • Focusing on meeting those goals efficiently, meaning we try not to waste time, but don’t try to go too fast.
  • Measure to see if our goals have even been reached, both at the end and along the way.
  • Recognize that “Teach students X” or “Help students understand Y” or “Put students through a grueling, 14-week course of Z” are not appropriate goals.
  • Keep SWABAT in mind. (Students Will Be Able To)

ID has some advantages over simply dubbing someone a teacher and setting them loose to spew forth their alleged knowledge. Some of them are:

  • Analysis of whether to teach at all. (Believe it or not, education isn’t always the answer to a given problem.)
  • Cost effectiveness. In the long run, ID can make for more, better-educated, happier, less-bored, and more-capable students in the same amount of time.
  • It’s time effective. ID helps meet the right need of the right people at the right time.
  • This can lead to a competitive advantage. In fast-moving industries, good training is a valuable asset. For schools and universities, it’s plays a huge role in your credibility, respectability, and therefore, funding.
  • Consistency. Standardized, proven methodologies produce consistent quality results.

“Wow. So, there really aren’t any downsides,” you say. Well… not exactly true. In the short term, ID can take more resources, require more/different people than what you have, and involves more steps. But if you’re willing to pay the price, you’ll get results. Even a marginal application of ID principles can yield big differences in student wishing-they-would-enter-a-coma-rather-than-be-in-your-class-for-just-five-more-minutes-ness.

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